PR & Print in a Changing World

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Posted At: March 24, 2010 1:34 PM
by Megan Parks

With the development of new technologies, the print industry is drastically changing, and to say it’s changing fast may be an understatement. Throughout history, there have been countless life-altering inventions. The car, light bulb and computer are just a sample of inventions that forever changed the way humans function. With new inventions and advancements comes a shift in the way people travel, work and communicate.

Communicate is a word with which all public relations professionals associate themselves. PR is all about communication — it’s who you know and how well you can convey a message that determines a job well done. As print technology constantly evolves and improves, is it moving so fast that PR professionals can’t keep up?

Hard-copy versus digital

The print industry is currently going through a huge revolution as new technologies threaten the consumption of hard-copy publications. In past years, PR professionals could count on most print publications to reach the public eye. Now, digital media has become the more preferred source of news, mainly due to the convenience it offers.

In a presentation at The Eth-X Factor regional activity, NewMediaRules Communications owner Carl Carter, APR, said newspaper circulation in 2008 went down by 7 percent and since Jan. 1, 2009, 15,000 newspaper jobs have been lost. These job cuts were made to try to compensate for change in media consumption and loss of revenue. Also in 2009, 143 newspapers ceased printing.

“We live in a fast-paced world. Digital media provides a wealth of information in one click, which is a lot faster than flipping through the pages of newspapers,” The Southeast Sun and Daleville Sun-Courier staff writer Casey Strickland said. “The Internet has changed the way the public is informed, and that change led to a decline in the number of newspapers. The public demand for easy access to the more information in less time has caused many news outlets to rely more on their Web sites and less on the printed word.”

According to Carter, news-reading habits have changed greatly due to the development of digital content. For “news right now,” 57 percent of people go to digital sources, 31 percent go to an aggregator and only 8 percent go to a newspaper site. Rather than clicking through articles, 44 percent settle for Google summary (summaries of popular articles on Google News’ landing page).

Some print publications are trying to compensate for the shift in consumption by charging for content on their online sites.

Katrina M. Mendolera, editor in chief of inVocus, wrote a ComPRhension blog post titled “Media Revolution: An Analysis Report” that discussed The New York Times’ decision to begin charging for content on its Web site in 2011. Readers would only be allowed to view a certain amount of content for free before a paywall would go into effect.

“The impact of the paywall may mean less visibility for PR campaigns, as readers drop off when asked to pay for content,” Mendolera said. “However, niche products may thrive in a paywall model as the content tends to be more exclusive.”

Mendolera goes on to write that although the state of the media is in turmoil, it’s still an exciting time as new technologies are introduced. Readers and advertisers are now seeing the value in investing their time and money into digital media.

“It was truly a year for rebranding, and the media will continue to do so well into 2010 as it continually evolves into increasingly digital formats. While traditionalists cling to print products, online dominates,” Mendolera said.

Social media

There is no doubt that social media has made a prominent place for itself in the media world. Sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have become great assets for all PR professionals.

In addition to those sites, blogging has grown to be a large resource for media consumption. Mashable.com is the world’s largest blog focused exclusively on Web 2.0 and social media news receiving more than 15 million page views per month.

In a recent post titled “How PR Pros Are Using Social Media for Real Results,” PR professional Jeremy Pepper said, “There are so many uses — conversational marketing, reaching influencers — that PR is able to participate in conversations and answer questions, be a support system for clients and companies, as well as empowering customers and power users to be a de facto resource for your company, a champion for your products.”

It is imperative that PR professionals better develop their social media skills. Mendolera wrote that PR pros need to embrace all aspects of new media marketing, because utilizing the tools now available online may attract the media’s attention to a PR campaign.

Although social media has proven to be a great addition to the PR world, Carter points out that it can to be too decentralized when it comes to credibility. Social media is not the end to traditional reporting, because posts aren’t always researched thoroughly.

“Professionals and the public alike should be cautious about getting information online and assuming it as fact simply because it is published on a site,” Strickland said. “Sources that can be freely posted to and edited by anyone may not always be accurate. It is important to ensure statements are true by gathering the information necessary to prove them before presenting them to the public as truth.”

E-readers

With digital media already on the rise, should print publications be in even more fear about the development of e-readers? Products like the Kindle, Nook and iPad seem to be the newest craze for technology buffs and avid readers.

Mashable.com posted that Apple iPad pre-orders were well over 100,000 within the first 10 hours of its launch. It is likely that e-readers will become more popular among avid readers, but, according to Mendolera, the debut of the iPad has analysts wondering if the competition between e-readers may not help save the newspaper and magazine from extinction.

“There are several new products which make storing information and documents easy. These products could help periodicals stay alive in a world where up-to-the-minute news is preferred,” Strickland said. “Since newspapers and magazines are beginning to rely heavily on digital content, these products will enable their readers to access the publication in an on-the-go format that’s easy to take anywhere and read anytime. They will bring newspapers and magazines into the digital age, and could keep them in business.”

What now?

New technologies will always develop and improve as time goes on. With new inventions, doors of opportunity and advancement will open, but other doors will close.

PR professionals are already used to staying on top of new advancements in order to learn and adapt quickly. The current revolution in the print industry is no different. As PR pros hang on the edge of their seats for results on where the most media is being consumed, they’re trying to make decisions now on how to best reach their key publics.

Carter advises PR pros to adapt to the changes in media but not get too attached to any specific technology or medium. “Paper will survive, at least locally,” he said.

Carter encourages PR pros to use blogs, social media and other digital media but not to forget fundamental skills. Accuracy and credibility, along with great writing, storytelling and pitching skills are fundamentals that must be carried out on a daily basis – no matter the medium.

Where do you see the future of print media going and how will it affect PR?

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